Have you ever noticed that, on the Internet, everyone’s kid is either special needs or a genius?
It’s a strange phenomenon that I’ve noticed over the years, though it took me a while to catch on to it. I remember when Eric was a wee baby, and I was just getting into online mothering communities. I was always so upset and concerned when “all” the other kids were doing stuff he wasn’t. Every kid develops at their own pace, of course, but mine seemed to be always behind! (Never mind that it was a group of babies born in July, and Eric was born with only 7 hours left in that particular month…)
Now, I’m not saying I don’t participate. I don’t want to, I don’t consciously do it, but I suppose every mom has that instinctive urge to talk her child up. The Internet just makes that a lot easier, because all we have to base it on is a small number of anecdotes and photos.
I have learned, however, that anything I hear, read, or see about kids the same age as mine online is that it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I don’t know what causes it – perhaps it’s just that moms who look at kid communities online are more engaged and active parents, or people with that much time online are higher income and better educated, or parents just gloss over their kids struggles and only talk about their strong points, or some are just exaggerating because they feel the need to “keep up with the Joneses…” Probably some combination of all 3 – but kids as portrayed on the Internet come across as a lot smarter.
These days, when I’m interacting with the only group of moms whose kids are born in and around July 2006, I tend to avoid topics about academic development. I do the same with the group that are Danny’s age. I find they’re a good resource for ideas of things to do, and a great place to talk over behavioral and physical development, but academic I just ignore. My kids are each going at their own pace, and it’s a perfect pace for them.
The truth is, when compared to “real life” groups – his pre-K class, comments from his pediatrician and some of Danny’s therapists over the years, that sort of thing – Eric is a sharp kid. He’s not brilliant, he’s not the next Albert Einstein, but he’s quick to pick up on things and is near the top of his class, especially stand-out when considering he’s up to a full year younger than children IN his class. However, when compared to the online group, he’s still lagging behind. Most of them are reading step 1 and 2 readers and writing short sentences; the closest thing to a sentence Eric writes is his first and last name. I’ve known these ladies for a long time, and I don’t think any of them are lying. I just refuse to compare to them.
Because developmentally typical kids on the Internet are all genius children. Mine are smart, charismatic, funny, happy, well-adjusted, confident…and certainly trouble makers and complete goof balls…but they aren’t geniuses.
Just like yours.
Take any other statements and comparisons with a grain of salt, or you just make drive yourself batty.
I’m not sure where the shift started, but over the past few months, I’ve moved from fearing Danny’s future and embracing it. Maybe he will always need support. Maybe he will not be able to do all the things we hope for our children. But he’s just such an incredible kid that I can’t help loving who and how he is. I think part of it has been moving away from therapy; now that I’m not ensconced in it, being reminding multiple times a week of Danny’s shortcomings, I can shake it off and celebrate the good. He has been opening up, though, too, and I’m getting glimpses of how he sees the world.
It’s pretty awesome.
I’ve learned not to take anything for granted. John is over the moon, because after 3 years, he’s finally hearing magic. “Ah-ee!” No, there’s no /d/ to be found, but it’s daddy all the same. He repeats it, and sometimes, he says it on his own. He’s slowly figuring out the world around him, in his own way, and trying to discover how to make things right. If I stop pushing him on the swings, he’ll reach around and try to push himself. If I give him a Pop Tart and that’s not what he wants to eat for breakfast, he’ll put it away in the fridge, because that’s where food goes. If he has anything that isn’t good that he wants to get rid of, though, it goes in the sink, because he knows that’s where his cups go and shouldn’t everything else, too?
He was delighted the other day in Costco, because the cart is on an angle, and the gallon of milk in there with him kept sliding down when he pushed it up to the higher end.
He closes his own door on the car, and if it fails to close completely, he will stand in the garage pushing on it until someone finally comes to help him get it the rest of the way closed.
It’s such a neat world this kid lives in.
I think, if there’s one gift above the others that I’ve been given with CMV, it’s the ability to appreciate every little tiny thing. Eric amazes me constantly doing things that are just so normal. Danny moves me to tears doing the tiniest things. Other people’s kids, too, I just marvel at. We went to the zoo with friends, and I got to spend some time showing a two year old the penguins. Every little utterance she made amazed me and gave me such joy, from the “bub bub” for bubbles in the water to a gleeful “ah ke!” dubbing me Aunt Kelly.
Kids are amazing. I don’t think I realized it before. I thought I did…but I didn’t.
We keep a family bed without keeping a family bed around our house. That is to say, we strongly encourage our boys use their own beds and rooms to sleep at night, but unless it’s becoming an every night kind of thing, we don’t object to them joining us on occasion either. Eric used to do it now and then when there was a storm going through, and many mornings after John is up and getting ready for work, Eric will come over and join me for another half hour or so before we get moving for the day. Other than that brief morning visit, though, I can’t think of when he’s joined us in bed… It’s been quite a while now since we’ve had to chase him off to his own room at 1 in the morning!
Danny, well, he hasn’t really joined us in bed since he was nursing. It just hasn’t been his thing. In fact, his morning routine if I’m still in bed is to come into my room, turn off the fan, and remove all the covers. Time to get up, Mommy!!!
And then there was last night.
First, 2am. Suddenly – crying! I wake up with a start. What? What?? Oh. Danny. …How odd. See, Danny’s probably the Best Sleeper Ever. The child has been sleeping the night through since he was like 4-5 months old, when suddenly he would nurse at like 8pm and then wake up again around 4 or 5. Yes, at 5 months old. OK then. Getting him to sleep can be a challenge, but once he’s asleep, he’s a heavy sleeper, and being deaf I’m sure doesn’t hurt any either. He also is pretty good at getting himself back to sleep. A few weeks ago, John and I both shot straight up in bed to the sound of a huge THUMP, followed by silence. Oh crap. Someone’s broken their neck. John went to investigate and found Danny climbing back into his bed while still asleep.
So you see why I was a little dismayed that Danny was crying, and not stopping, at 2 in the morning. It wasn’t an all out scream, and it came and went like he was trying to go back to sleep but couldn’t. So I broke The Code: I went into his room before morning, fully prepared to be up for the next 2 hours.
20 minutes later, we were at a stand still. He was so very much trying to go back to sleep, but he could only manage it if I was touching him. The moment I took my hand away, he would open his eyes and start to whimper again. I don’t know if he had a bad dream or what, but he needed Mommy. I, however, am kneeling on a hardwood floor, bent over to rest my head on a crib mattress in a toddler bed, one arm flopping oddly over the edge, the other resting haphazardly on my son’s back as he tosses and turns his way back into slumber.
To heck with this. Into my bed we go.
So, there were 3 in the bed. Danny quickly confiscated my pillow and sprawled out quite nicely and went back to sleep, a hand resting against my side. I curled up, finding a spot between him and John, and drifted back to sleep myself. 4 hours later, it’s 5am and I hear a little voice. “Mommy? I have something to tell you…”
I flip my head to the other side, notice that Danny is laying over the entirety of my pillow, and mumble, “What, Eric?”
“Can I sleep with you?”
So here’s Danny laying sideways along the length of my pillow, John sleeping soundly on his side, me with no pillow sort of curled toward my side of the bed, and Eric laying toward the foot of the bed fast asleep. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there our cat Ralph has found the square inch of space left and is curled up, snoring – I mean, breathing loudly.
And, trying to fall back to sleep, I hum to myself, “There were 5 in the bed, and the little one said, roll over… roll over…”
One of the hardest things of being a parent to me – and one of the most important – is to let kids try to do stuff for themselves. This, of course, leads to plenty of frustration before they manage to accomplish, well, whatever they are trying to accomplish. The thing is, especially first thing in the morning, I let to get stuff DONE. What’s the fastest way to do it? Do it myself, of course! But, with it being summer break, I am forcing myself to take a step back.
I’m not sure who’s learning more about pushing through frustration, me or the boys.
“Mommy! It’s stuck! I can’t dooooo it!”
Eric is doing a lot of the “I can’t!” trick lately. I can’t this, I can’t that, I can’t do it. His lack of confidence in his abilities is one of the few things he didn’t have checked off on his Kindergarten readiness sheet from pre-K. I’m sure I haven’t helped much here, with the (rare) times I snap and do the old, “Just let me do it!” I have to work really, really hard not to step in when my kids are struggling. It’s not because I can’t tolerate their inability, it’s just because I hate to see them struggle! Oh, but struggle they must. Fortunately, the pay off is so, so worth it. That flash of accomplishment, that joy and amazement when they do something by themselves, it’s pretty awesome.
We just have to work through THEIR stubborn streaks first, to get them to even try.
“I CAN’T! Forget this shirt, I’m going naked!” (Or at least, that’s what I imagine was going through his head when he chucked the shirt across the room with an angry scream.)
For the most part, I’m taking the summer as a time of fun and enjoyment of being together. There’s going to be lots of trips to the park, we might try out a few of the free morning kids movies at the theater, puzzles and board games and library trips galore, just pure goodness. I do, however, have a few things I’d really like to work on with the boys. For Eric, along with the sight word packs his pre-K teacher sent home with all her kids, I’m hoping to spend some of our alone time while Danny’s in school working on his bike riding and his swimming. For Danny, I’m really going to try to step back so he can learn to get himself dressed. He’s already getting fairly close – I hold out the shirt with the bottom opening so he can stick an arm in, and I hold out the shorts so he can step into them. From having a shirt hanging on his arm and his shorts bundled around his ankles, he achieves…
…a backwards shirt and twisted shorts, but hey, they’re on! (And yes, I’m still counting myself responsible for his CIs. Otherwise, Lord only knows where they’d show up and in how many pieces the first time he got frustrated.)
Wish us all luck!
I ran into a quote last week that really struck a chord with me…
“Isn’t it funny how day by day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different?”
I’m not sure who said it, but it is so, so true. I find myself weekly, even daily, looking at my children and feeling like it has always been like this. In my mind, I know they started as tiny little babies, but in my day to day mindset nothing has changed…ever. Danny has always been silent, has made no progress. Eric has always been this amazing, imaginative, talkative kid. With Danny especially, I get this mired feeling sometimes, because if nothing has changed, nothing ever will.
So I took a look back…
A year ago, Eric wasn’t even talking in full sentences. He was trying – “What we buy?” – but the grammar just wasn’t there. He was just barely starting to use the potty, and consequently, was peeing all over my house. He was so…young.
A year ago, Danny barely understood a word we said. He had just learned to take off his headpieces, never mind rip them to pieces, take the harness off, or (gasp!) put them back on. He was just taking his first independent steps, one or two at a time, but did not walk. He babbled only with vowels; there were no consonants, and certainly no word approximations.
Sometimes, I need to look back to see how far we’ve come, and to realize that maybe – just maybe – in a year things will be so much different, so much better. Isn’t it funny how nothings changes, but nothing stays the same? It’s this that is so well worth being a parent: watching them grow, seeing how far they have come, and knowing it’s only the beginning.
What a crazy journey it is.
Staying at home has definitely been a whole new world for me this week. As expected, it’s not exactly a lazy-day, sit on the couch eating bon-bons and watching the Price is Right lifestyle. I’ve been busy. Heck, we had Eric’s 4 year well checkup, Danny’s visit with the neurologist, and our outside stairs to the basement repaired, on top of typical errands and housework and the like. What I’ve noticed, though, is that while I’m certainly busy, I’m not rushed. There is no “Oh my God, I have to get x, y, and z done in the next hour and my boys are waiting at daycare and then I have to make supper and how on earth am I going to do it all – AHHHHHHH!” When I worked, I always felt under the gun. A trip to the grocery store to pick up milk in the middle of the week was a huge production of hoping to get out of work on time, then racing through the grocery store so that I could pick up the boys, then racing home so that I could make supper.
Now, if I need milk…I go get it.
Now, I don’t “fit in” play therapy…I just play.
Now, I don’t “squeeze in” the housework…I just get it done.
Now, I don’t “wish I had time” for making muffins…I make them.
There’s even time to let Danny try to help, even though he hasn’t the faintest clue what’s going on.
The best part, though, came one afternoon while Eric, Danny, and I were up playing in Danny’s room. A storm was rolling in, and we were reading books and generally roughhousing around when thunder crashed outside. Eric, predictably, froze what he was doing and gasped. What I didn’t predict was that Danny immediately stopped what he was doing, too. My deaf son heard the storm.
Yeah, it’s been a pretty cool week.